14 August 2007

I'd Rather Be Lampooning

The 22 artists featured in “Ceci n’est pas…” chronicle every tawdry aspect of the gallery scene with wit, irony and—occasionally—sycophantic adoration.

But really, how cool is it when the quasi-uncool mock the quasi-cool? Is it ever uncool? No. It's hardly sublime, its basically masturbation masquerading as mockery. It's like "Look at us, we can poke fun at ourselves because, well, we are better than you, after all". I mean, to know that world you've gotta know that world; to poke fun at it, you've gotta be a cog in its machinery or on the outside, looking in, wishing you were; so they're basically mocking themselves and they don't even realise it. So be it.

Laura Parnes’s videos reenact the discomforts of a first studio visit, for instance, while Jude Tallichet’s heart-shaped homages to male art stars like Jeff Koons and John Currin reinforce the objectification success can bring. But doesn't Jude secretly wish he was Jeff Koons? Of course he does. Who are they kidding? Surely, not me.

What happens when art and money meet? Alejandro Diaz addresses the marketing of all this work with advertisements for naked artist inside (in marker on cardboard) and unknown artists at unheard-of prices (in glowing red neon).

Christopher Ho and Troy Richards establish a fictitious travel agency to offer their colleagues luxury vacations: “Parisian and Provençal gastronomic adventure for Rirkrit Tiravanija”; “Dubai million-dollar shopping spree for Barbara Kruger.” No one offers an easy fix.

"Wow, thats a beautiful piece"

Humour helps to mediate their uncomfortable closeness to their topic, although—both intentionally and not—many jokes fall flat.

Pablo Helguera’s Artist Tip #7 offers advice on the proper response to a friend’s exhibition. The lightness of his approach can’t temper the anxiety he’s addressing; it only highlights the difficulties of criticizing an institution to which one wants desperately to belong.

Ceci n’est pas…” may not have all the answers, but it is an ambitious strike at a difficult question: How is contemporary art practice influenced by its shifting socioeconomic milieu?

The show’s achievement lies in exploring that puzzle without resorting to institutional critique or falling back on pure cynicism.

From ArtCal...

Ceci n'est pas... (This is not...) an exhibition about painting. This is not an exhibition that defines a moment or a trend. This is not an exhibition that celebrates the emerging artist or the mid-career artist or those who have passed. This is not an exhibition about appropriation, subversive strategies or architectural interventions. This is not an exhibition about global warming, the war in Iraq, government corruption, Lindsey Lohan or Knut the polar bear. (awww Knut!)

The group exhibition Ceci n'est pas... (This is not...) presents works that approach various facets of the art world with irony and humor. Culled from artist's observations and experiences as well as art world mythology, the far-ranging styles include self-deprecating anecdotes, commentaries on art and exhibition practices and critiques of art market trends. The artists in Ceci n'est pas... use a cynical yet enlightened lens that reveals the passions, manners, idiosyncrasies, desires and anxieties that are woven into the fabric of contemporary art.

"I love how he toys with the colours. It's so visceral and the disjunctive perturbation of the spatial relationships contextualize the remarkable handling of light."

The title of the exhibition borrows from the subject of Rene Magritte's painting "The Treachery of Images," in which the Belgian surrealist emphasized the contradiction of representation. (In the painting, a pipe is shown above text in French that reads, "This is not a pipe.") The works in the exhibition Ceci n'est pas... look beneath the veneer of representation to find meaning in the art world of today. With the simultaneous exhibitions of Art Basel, Skulptur Projekte Münster, documenta and La Biennale de Venezia, the summer 2007 "Grand Tour" is an art event of massive proportions, offering an auspicious time to reflect on the world that created it.

Recently, many artists have turned to themselves, their colleagues and their lifestyles as a starting point to discern their individual positions in the art world. Tamy Ben-Tor's hysterical and disturbing portrayals of eccentric characters expose the self-indulgence, bigotry and other maladies of people who occupy the cultural milieu. Kalup Linzy's soap operatic videos deal with love, loss, and art world politics that simultaneously undercut stereotypes of gender, black culture and sexuality. Charley Friedman performs art world characters; a pushy salesman with a gaudy wardrobe (gallerists/dealers) or a short-tempered, snotty older woman (consultants), while Guy Richards Smit uncovers the sociopathic details of an artistic superstar via characters drawn directly from popular culture; a sitcom actor and a rock star, to name a few.

In the work of Laura Parnes and Pam Lins, moments from artist's professional lives - rites of passages for many - are depicted in a cynical and humorous manner. Parnes' videos recount awkward, funny and at times embarrassing studio visits, and Lins' whimsical ink drawings sensitively capture the angst, horror and frustration many artists-to-be experience in an academic environment. Cary Leibowitz inscribes text that expresses personal desires and insecurities onto lowbrow knick-knacks such as buttons, coffee mugs, pendants and stuffed animals. Liebowitz shares his self-deprecating humor with David Kramer, whose works on paper and videos convey his anxiety and disappointments as an under-recognized artist who never gets a break. Emphasizing the dichotomy of high/low culture, Alejandro Diaz utilizes various artistic tropes to address notions of political, social and economic imbalances within contemporary society.

Jennifer Dalton develops sharp-witted visual systems that focus on the reality of being a contemporary artist today. Her charts, graphs and categorizations of art world customs include artists and their families, collectors, critics, gallerists, auction houses, and art schools.
Featured in fashion and lifestyle magazines - most often draped in designer gear amidst a messy studio - the successful contemporary artist has reached celebrity, even cult-like status. Nina Katchadourian plays with this romantic adoration using self-portraiture, alluding to the long history of stereotypical representations of the male artist. With the reverence befitting a teenage girl, Jude Tallichet displays a decidedly ironic idol worship of some of the most successful male artists of her generation. Peter Coffin and Edgar Orlaineta comment on the mythical and mystical auras that surround the interpretation of artists' oeuvres and lifestyles, while Christopher K. Ho and Troy Richards design luxury vacation itineraries catered to an individual artist's work.

Several artists peer into the art of exhibition and marketing strategies. While Michael Smith takes on the group exhibition construct, reassigning curatorial responsibility to the artist, Simon Linke challenges the predictable and redundant promotional language of marketing through a repetition of reproductions of gallery advertisements. With an emphasis on the everyday, Danica Phelps explores market value by chronicling her daily activities, including work expenses and sales profits. On the other hand, Michael Lindeman's paintings of classified ads extend outside of the established art world, offering deliberately upfront works meant to decorate the home, available at refreshingly de-inflated prices.

Other artists employ understated conceptual art practices to sensitively examine familiar art historical genres and tropes. Neil Goldberg's video installation scrutinizes unrealized ideas. Terence Gower identifies a quintessential Modern artist by recreating her works and chronicling her methodology in a series of photographs that evoke the documentation of conceptual practices. Reynard Loki offers a series of seemingly identical paintings that articulate the semantics of untitled artworks. Leaving no stone unturned, Pablo Helguera appropriates Strunk and White's famous book on grammar, The Elements of Style, to create a guide to art world manners and etiquette

@ Sara Meltzer Gallery
525–531 W 26th St
between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues in Chelsea
Monday thru Friday 11 am-6 pm - ends this Friday

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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